The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has urged farmers to remain vigilant of people arriving into farmyards falsely claiming to be representing agri businesses.

Farmers should look to see ID from unexpected and unknown farm visitors to prevent criminals from falsely posing as employees of farm businesses with legitimate reasons to call to farms, the group said.

The warning comes as UFU deputy president William Irvine stated that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had seen an increase in crime, particularly in the Ballymena area of Co Antrim.

'Extremely disturbing'

“It’s extremely disturbing to learn that the PSNI have been receiving a high number of rural crime reports in recent weeks,” Irvine commented.

“Criminals are not only taking advantage of the darker nights, but they are calling to farms during the daytime posing as employees from agriculture firms.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for farmers to be aware of farm visitors and to ask for ID when someone arrives unexpectedly.

“If farm visitors are genuine, they will be able to produce ID or will verify who they are working for through their organisation and will not take offence at you asking for proof.”

Darker evenings

Irvine reminded farmers that the evenings drawing in is allowing thieves more cover to carry out illegal activities.

Simple actions such as photographing machinery, recording serial numbers and marking equipment can help avoid farm thefts.

“With darkness falling shortly after 4pm, criminals also have a bigger window of opportunity to intrude on a family farm,” the deputy president added.

“Lock away all farm machinery and vehicles, especially those of high value, and never leave a tractor or quad sitting unattended with the keys in the ignition.”

Farmers were also encouraged to continue checking on elderly neighbours as nights turn dark and to contact the PSNI if suspicious activity is spotted.